Enthusiastic farmers in the Great Lakes region planted more than 27,500 acres of cover crops as part of the Great Lakes Cover Crop Initiative, leaving the project’s three-year, 15,000-acre goal far behind.

The Great Lakes Cover Crops Initiative (GLCCI) promotes cover crops and conservation tillage in the watersheds around Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Lake Huron. Working closely with extension educators from Michigan State University, Ohio State University and Purdue University, Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) is helping deliver the technical, educational and social support to help farmers incorporate cover crops and conservation tillage into their operations and evaluate the changes.

GLCCI is built around a model of adaptive management, encouraging farmers and advisors to assess the benefits and challenges of cover crops and continually adjust their practices to make the systems increasingly effective at protecting water quality and profitability.

Field days, grower meetings, an active listserv and one-on-one support from a network of partner crop consultants are yielding outstanding results. Root pits provide a first-hand look at the extensive root systems of many cover crop species, and an online Cover Crop Decision Tool helps growers navigate the choices of key cover crops and blends.

In addition, CTIC is sponsoring the attendance of 15 producers from the GLCCI program at the 2013 National No-Till Conference to broaden their networks and give them an opportunity to learn about cover crops from fellow farmers from around the country.

More information on the Great Lakes Cover Crop Initiative can be found at the GLCCI pages on the CTIC web site.

Beyond the GLCCI, a national CTIC survey — 2013 Cover Crops Grower Survey — will also be conducted to a provide insight from farmers across the nation into the opportunities and challenges they have experienced in growing cover crops. The survey will offer guidance in championing and promoting cover crops nationwide.